2 years at trivago: Remote Working

Staying home and doing home office during these challenging times, I marked two years in trivago and also in Germany. Woohoooo!

As much excited I want to sound, it’s not much fun when I’m inside the house for a month (and only go out to buy the groceries).

If you remember, last year I wrote an article about my one-year experience in trivago. I’ve (un)learned a lot during my first year and the circumstances have changed, or rather expanded now.

After the first week of March 2020, entire trivago is now working in a fully remote setup. So, here is my experience of Remote Working during the second year at trivago.

Cheers for the two awesome years!

Note: This article is not sponsored nor written in cooperation with any companies/products I mention here.

Team Setup

There was a huge restructuring right after I finished my first year and now I’m working in a team called Consolidation in a new domain (department) called Source. We have five teams in the domain including a shared team of Data Analysts.

(If you’re interested in knowing what we do in Consolidation, read this article I wrote for the trivago tech blog.)

Two teams (including mine) in our domain are distributed across two locations where two engineers from each team were in Amsterdam and the rest were in Dusseldorf. But after two engineers from the Amsterdam office moved to a different domain, we only have two engineers there and both of them are in my team.

We have three full-time engineers (one more will join after all this menace ends), one engineer as the Responsibility Lead (kind of a team lead), one Product Owner and one Data Analyst (on project basis).

We are used to the remote working setup because our team was in two locations even before this situation arose, but now everyone is remote!

Team Ceremonies

We follow a mixture of Scrum and Kanban (you may call it Scrum-Ban), but we don’t have Sprints, rather we have Weekly Goals. We still have Refinement sessions, Retrospectives, and Daily stand-ups, but we don’t have a separate Sprint Planning session. However, we have a Domain level Review session to showcase what we did during a given two weeks of time.

Apart from these, we had most of our architectural discussions remote. The first few weeks were very challenging, because it’s not the same as when everyone is the same room.

When someone faces an issue, we do pair-programming or even mob-programming, rubber-duck-debugging, etc. But it’s not that easy compared to explaining your code over your shoulder.

Tools

I won’t spend too much time explaining the tools we use to keep up the communication, because it’s not super important for any type of collaboration.

Communication

We use Slack for our daily communication, mostly for textual messaging. If we need to send sensitive information such as logins/keys, we use emails. We used Slack and Skype for Business for the audio/video calls, but they lack many features and had a lot of issues such as consuming a lot of resources(power, CPU/memory, and Internet bandwidth).

In this fully remote setup, we use Zoom for all of our audio/video calls because it provides many more features. One such feature is the Screen Sharing option which uses very fewer resources compared to others. It also has Rooms, where we can split the team into smaller groups during brainstorm sessions.

Documentation

We mostly use cloud-based tools as much as possible since it’s more convenient.

We use Miro for all brainstorming sessions and Retrospective sessions. It is a whiteboard too where we can collaboratively draw diagrams and easily share with others. After using many other tools, we settled with Miro and even got the Enterprise package because it offers many features others don’t, including change history, voting on notes/ideas, cool icon packs, and real-time collaboration.

For all other documentation purposes except the READMEs on the repos, we use DropBox Paper. It’s clean and very lightweight! Some teams still use Confluence coming with the Atlasian suite, but it sooooo sloooooow! And even if you manage to write something there, finding an article there is a nightmare! DropBox Paper is efficient in so many ways.

Going Fully Remote

Our team is not new for remote collaboration as we’ve been doing it for almost one year before the entire company went fully remote. So, we went into this self-quarantine mode with more experience (than other teams), with the difference of now everything is now remote.

Working from home

After the refinement and we put the tasks in the Defined/Estimated column (in Jira), anyone can pick up the tasks from the top. No one really kept an eye on what we do even before, and it’s almost the same now with the only difference that others don’t really see you except during the meetings.

Nobody really checks how many hours you worked as long as you finish what you pick, just like before.

One might think, now I’m at home and nobody sees me. So I can do nothing and just chill. But that’s not how trivago works, and you cannot survive at trivago with that mindset! We #trust in others and they do the same, and we should keep that trust. In my personal opinion, six trivago core values can help any working environment.

The only thing I miss while working from home is hanging out with my super awesome team!

Mental health is more important!

One of the most important thing I saw when we move to the fully-remote set up is the perspective towards the mental health of employees. When I have 1:1 meetings with my Responsibility Lead and the Domain Lead, they mostly focus of how I feel, not how many tasks I finished. Because not all people are comfortable staying home all day for weeks. One can really can get tired, stressed and even depressed. So, the management is explicit about the expectations and clearly stated that they don’t expect people to be 100% productive.

We have online sessions to talk about handling stress, time management and improving mental health. We also have Yoga, home-workout classes several times a week.

Image: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-52005257

We still have the trivago Friday, but now it’s online. Sometimes we have DJs, Solo or Duet performances, Karaokes and many more.

Apart from these company-wide events, we have domain/team level sessions. We have a Freaky-Friday for our domain where meet (online), drink, chat, b*tch about how badly you want to go out but you won’t, etc. Sometimes people bring their family members and pets to these meetings and then it becomes or interesting. We even play online (party) games and that’s really fun.

In our Consolidation team, we have a meeting called #LifeInTheTimeOfCorona every day at 5 pm to talk about a little bit of what we did today, but mostly about random things outside work. We talk about movies, news, food, or any random thing. We even play games like JackBox or even online Multi-Player games, and it really helps to end the working day in a positive note.

Home Alone

I’ve seen many people share very profound quotes on social media, like these.

If you come out of quarantine with no new positive thinking, no new skill set, and no new plan, you never lacked time, you lack discipline!

Some Psychology Expert of Social Media

Well, I have a different opinion towards that. Some people are struggling with this quarantine a lot, unlike those Gurus. They’re away from their loved ones, they can’t do any sports, they can’t go out, and they simply feel stuck!

If you come out of quarantine, you just made it! You can be proud of yourself that you didn’t screw up the only thing you were supposed to do. STAY THE F*** HOME!

So, if you don’t feel like doing stuff, it’s fine. Stay strong, you’re not alone. Try to find something that calms you down and release your compressed energy. Find new hobbies. You’ll be just fine!

I usually don’t go out and I do enjoy staying home. But now, I should NOT go out even if I want to and that bugs me a lot. I sit down in front of the computer in the morning, do office stuff, have the #LifeInTheTimeOfCorona at 5 pm and then what? And what about the weekends?

If you’re with your family, you’re way luckier than me. Even if you are, you mind find it so hard to stay home. I know I have more time now, but I am not truly as productive as I thought because everything is slow now. But I’m trying to put some time into other things outside work such as my YouTube channel, this blog, playing games, reading, working on my personal projects, learning new technologies, etc. I’m thinking of doing some online certifications as well, but I won’t promise anything 😀

The bottom line is, even if you can’t do or learn anything new, it’s fine. At least, don’t kill yourself over other people’s unrealistic goals.

But, try to create a new set of hobbies. Read the book that you never could. Start the project your never had time to. Start the blog you never had words for. Grow some plants while you’re home.

Hate staying home?

Well, that’s the whole point of staying home! If you go out and help spreading the virus, you have to stay home longer!

Every time you go out, you’re risking not just yourself, but the entire world!

Quarantine is NOT a punishment, it’s to save you and save others from you. So, stay home!

Tips

I’m no expert on this, but here are some things I try to follow.

Create a small schedule

Create a small schedule for the week. For instance, I work on my personal project once every other day and play games or watch movies on the other. In that way, I don’t burnout myself and still have some time for productive stuff.

Then make daily and weekly goals and try to follow them. It could be very small and stupid goals, but it helps you to be motivated. It could be even, write a blog-post, spend 15 minutes every day to learn a new (non-programming) language, fix a bug in your personal project, cook something special, do 5 TikTok videos (for whatever the reasons) or anything. And when you tick off even smaller tasks, you’ll feel much happier and accomplished.

Wind-down properly

Because you spend the entire day at home, you must be spending a lot of time in front of your computer, TV or even with your phone. Don’t go to sleep right after, and spend some time to wind down.

I read a book for 15-20 minutes on bed before sleeping and spend 5-10 minutes meditating. You have use an app such as Headspace, 7Mind, Calm or even your smart assistant like Google Assistant.

This helps a lot having a proper sleep and wake up fresh.

Be connected

It’s very easy to drift away and lock yourself in this time, and it is very tempting. So keep in touch with your friends and family during these hard times. If you’re not living with them, call them at least once a day. Familiar faces and voices will make you happy.

Talk about positive things, not just how many infections and deaths! Play some games if possible. End the call in a positive note.

Hobbies

If you already have hobbies which can be done indoor, you’re lucky! If you have hobbies which requires you to outside such as traveling, hiking and partying, probably this is a good time to find new ones to keep you occupied.

I found this new hobby of having a YouTube channel for Gaming and now I’m following that. It needs very less time, you just record or stream while playing the game.

My Gaming Channel

Also, now I have time to focus more on my hobby projects and hopefully will be able to finish it by the time I come out of the quarantine.

Learn something new

If possible, spend some time to learn something new. It could be anything! Doesn’t necessarily be in the same scope as what you already do. If you’re a software engineer, learn about marketing or presentation skills. Or learn a new technology that you’re not familiar with. Learn how to play a guitar, how cook your favorite dish, graphic designing, game development and the list will go on.

And if you check, there are hundreds of online courses (in Udemy, Coursera, etc.) that are now discounted and even free. So, why not enroll in some and pump yourself up!

Even if you can’t do anything, learn how to survive!

Summary

Being apart from your daily routine is hard. It’s much harder if you’re away from your loved ones. It can affect your productivity a lot, so try to keep your head straight.

Remote working is not about doing what you already were doing while being at home. It’s more complicated than it sounds on paper. First, you should have a clear mind. You’re not expected to come out of the quarantine as an expert on anything. Try to utilize your time and energy in something good.

Stay Home, Stay Safe!

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